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10 Essential News and Politics Podcasts

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Talking about the news with your friends in 2019 can be embarrassing, tedious, and alienating. Discussing political news in particular — whether we’re “weighing in” on the latest Trump scandal or offering some warmed-over, vague analysis of the Democratic race — makes most of us sound like basic jerks, playing at pundits because we want to feel less passive in the face of chaos. This is one reason why news and politics podcasts have grown so popular since Trump took over: Not only does listening to them give us ideas for cool stuff to say later, it also soaks up some of the social energy we feel compelled to devote to processing this relentlessly historic era.

Of course, news and politics have been providing the raw materials for podcasts since long before Trump. And in many ways, the formal evolution of podcasting as a whole has been pushed forward by producers and hosts trying to come up with new and creative ways of talking about the news while keeping its audience engaged. Insofar as most podcasts are fundamentally journalistic undertakings, it’s because they provide a unique — and uniquely pliable — vessel for news coverage.

As reflected on this list, a news podcast can do its thing in a variety of idioms. It can take the form of an ensemble-led talk show, a story, a magazine, or — more simply — a conversation between two people. Yet what they all arguably have in common is the expectation that they will be consumed by people who are focused, motivated to understand events they can’t control, and — this sounds darker than I mean it to — moving through the world alone. That’s the cliché podcasters like moi are constantly throwing around to justify our existence: that podcasting is a distinctly intimate medium, that people form a special connection to podcast hosts because they have us in their ears while they’re walking around and living their lives.

It’s a good, accurate cliché! But then again, the news isn’t supposed to be personal, is it? In some ways it’s supposed to be the opposite — a reminder to suppress one’s solipsism and myopia, as well as an invitation to care about what’s happening to people we don’t know. Maybe that’s why news and politics podcasts, including the ones I’ve singled out here, have become such a vital part of our of daily existence: Each one meets us where we live (inside our own heads), while making it slightly easier to look up at our surroundings.

The oldest podcast on this list, Slate’s Political Gabfest launched in 2008 and has maintained the same three hosts and same three-topic structure ever since. David Plotz, John Dickerson, and Emily Bazelon— all of whom worked at Slate when the show started but no longer do— have a sibling-like rapport: interrupting, laughing, and teasing (sometimes quite brutally). They are experts, but ones whose intimacy and affection for one another permits a kind of genuine intellectual candor. They are funny, informed, and sometimes thrillingly mean. Their thinking is collaborative; they change each other’s minds. Listening to them is like witnessing an essay being written in real time by a writer trying to untangle an idea with their smartest friends. Fans who remember the days of iPods and frantic “syncing” feel like they know the hosts as well as the hosts know each other, a then novel sensation that’s now familiar to many podcast listeners. And because they make it look (sound) so easy, they’ve inspired countless other political junkies to build their own roundtables and try to capture Gabfest’s timeless magic.

Planet Money

The creators of Planet Money, Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson, famously had to fight like hell with their bosses at NPR to get the show launched during the financial crisis of 2008. In the end, both Blumberg and Davidson left public radio to create podcasting empires of their own – Blumberg is the founder of Gimlet; Davidson recently started a podcast company with backing from Sony — but not before creating a blueprint for what a news podcast could sound like and what holes it could fill in a listener’s understanding of the world. By combining intimacy with expertise, and putting out episodes that ranged from a few minutes to an hour, Blumberg and Davidson proved that podcasters could be themselves while experimenting with form and setting hugely ambitious journalistic goals — as long as they never failed to be entertaining.

The Gist 

Mike Pesca, host of The Gist since 2014, invented the daily news podcast as we think of it now. But if you’ve heard Pesca’s jagged yet breezy virtuosity on the mic, you know it’s hard to give him influencer credit for the simple reason that no one sounds like him and no other podcast moves like his. The Gist follows a consistent formula: funny intro from Mike, followed by a zippy interview with a guest, and a searching, intellectually transparent monologue known as the daily “spiel.” On its best days, The Gist feels like an early aughts blog, hosted by a guy who reads more widely than anyone you’ve ever met and takes pride in constantly making jokes, even when he’s trying to explain why something drives him nuts.

NPR Politics Podcast

There’s an inevitable tension between NPR’s impeccably poised and aggressively neutral house style and what’s supposed to be the personality-driven, opinionated palette of podcasting. But on the NPR Politics Podcast, public radio’s finest manage to elbow their way out of the box, delivering their analysis with verve and rolled-up sleeves. In doing so, they allow their personalities to emerge in 3-D, giving reporters like Sam Sanders (now the host of his own podcast, It’s Been a Minute) a chance to become stars. Importantly, NPR continues to adapt to the moment — they just announced that Politics Podcast will go daily in an effort to keep up with the pace of breaking news. It’s only a matter of time until audiences demand that they produce new episodes every 30 minutes.

The Daily 

Within months of its 2017 launch, the New York Times’ now-flagship podcast had over 100 million downloads. From the beginning, its existence felt urgent. Whether grilling Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt about the latest presidential catastrophe or talking to a grieving New York City taxi driver, host Michael Barbaro delivers his lines with a practiced, soothing tenderness that never betrays alarm but always connotes curiosity. In speaking to his colleagues from the paper, Barbaro takes listeners inside the Times newsroom, offering glimpses into the reporting process and driving home the reality that, behind each byline, lives a human being who is sometimes stressed out, sometimes perplexed, and pretty much always working. For fans of The Daily — people who, despite all efforts to the contrary, now spend their lives absorbing bad news — the podcast has become a beloved habit clung to in difficult circumstances. For the Times, it has become a way of embracing the internet-born trend toward personality-driven news coverage, and a megaphone for reporting and analysis that might otherwise reach far fewer people.

Pod Save America

Pod Save America has the kind of fanbase you might expect of a K-pop group or an actual presidential candidate. Launched as the spiritual successor to Keepin’ It 1600 by a group of young Obama alums, Pod Save America found a huge audience of revved-up liberals in the wake of Trump’s election and broke through to the mainstream in a way that no other podcast talk show has ever done. Since then, it’s become an all-but-mandatory stop for Democratic figures looking to raise their profile — especially if they want to occupy the White House. But its guests, as impressive as they are, are almost beside the point. “Pod Save,” as it’s affectionately known, has made legitimate, Radio City Hall–level stars of hosts Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Tommy Vietor, and Dan Pfeiffer, who were able to parlay the show’s success into a larger Crooked Media empire, which includes multiple spinoff pods, an HBO show, and a line of “Friend of the Pod” T-shirts that tells the world, “I care about politics so much I listen to podcasts about it.”

Chapo Trap House

You know the guy at your office who thinks he and his friends should start a podcast where it’s just them, like, riffing? Blame it on Chapo Trap House, the shaggy crew of socialist comics who have inspired a million amateur podcasts that never made it past episode two. Ironically, these anti-capitalists have distinguished themselves in the podcast space by printing money on Patreon. And while Will Menaker, Matt Christman, and Felix Biederman weren’t professional pundits or journalists when they decided to start their show in the midst of the 2016 campaign, they’re now the poster boys of podcasting’s thriving comedy-adjacent (and, sometimes, politics-adjacent) leftist wing (see: Cum Town, Red Scare). Ever since, they’ve set up permanent residence on the slippery slope, blurting out jokes that make some people hate them while building a loyal audience made up of the so-called Dirtbag Left, a.k.a. irreverent liberals who think the Pod Save America guys are a bunch of sellouts.

74 Seconds 

This podcast from Minnesota Public Radio about the death of Philando Castile at the hands of a police officer who shot him during a traffic stop redefines in many ways what a news podcast can be. The 22 episodes that comprise the show start with a zoomed-in look back at the incident, captured from multiple revelatory angles, before pivoting to real-time coverage of the trial in which the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was ultimately acquitted. 74 Seconds, which won the Peabody Award, is a demonstration of how podcasts create space to slow down the news and examine its texture without sacrificing relevance or urgency.

Trump Inc.

President Trump likes to brag about the number of jobs he has created, but what he never mentions is that most of them are in podcasting. Of all the Trumpcentric podcasts out there, Trump, Inc. from WNYC and ProPublica stands out for its depth and shape. Every episode places some aspect of the Trump family business under scrutiny — one week it’s the inaugural fund, another week it’s Trump Tower Moscow, and so on. In the tradition of old-school beat reporting, it’s like pointing a spotlight at a big but finite canvas and moving it around until something amazing and newsworthy is found. Sound-rich but light on its feet, this podcast is a middle ground between the fussy prestige fare that podcast listeners love and the kind of elegant, unadorned reporting that usually gets published on newsprint.

The Weeds

Vox* is known for its “explainers,” which can now be consumed in the form of articles, online video, and television. In some ways, The Weeds is just the podcast version of that same sensibility: a twice-weekly roundtable featuring some combination of Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein, Sarah Kliff, Jane Coaston, Dara Lind, and occasional guests going in-depth on complicated political topics. Crucially, though, the Weeds team generally declines to provide the kind of explainer that distills a complex issue into its simplest, most easily digested form. Instead, the hosts luxuriate in the sometimes quite obscure intricacies of policy proposals, academic papers, and other wonky texts. In doing so, The Weeds takes full advantage of its listeners’ willingness to pay sustained attention to a detailed, defiantly dense discussion. It’s a level of patience and immersion that journalists seldom get to achieve in any other form.

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Doctored video shows Trump violently attacking media figures

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Issued on: 14/10/2019 – 13:20Modified: 14/10/2019 – 13:31

A video showing a doctored image of US President Donald Trump shooting and assaulting members of the media and political opponents was shown at an event for his supporters last week at Mar-a-Lago, The New York Times reported.

In the internet meme entitled “The Trumpsman”, the US president‘s head is superimposed on an image of a man attacking people whose faces have been replaced with the logos of media outlets including CNN, The Washington Post, NBC and the BBC. The video has been taken from a scene in the film “Kingsman: The Secret Service”.

[embedded content]

As the rampage continues inside the “Church of Fake News”, the Trump character strikes late senator John McCain on the back of the neck and torches the head of Senator Bernie Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential rival.

He throws former Republican senator Mitt Romney to the ground and strikes former president Barack Obama in the back before slamming him against a wall.

The video also depicts Trump attacking people including his 2016 presidential opponent Hillary Clinton; former president Bill Clinton; Congressman Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee who is leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump; actor Rosie O’Donnell; and financier George Soros, who is often a target of alt-right conspiracy theories. Trump is also shown attacking someone whose head has been superimposed with the Black Lives Matter logo.

A brutal video clip depicting Donald Trump shooting and stabbing media characters and political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters, the New York Times reported Sunday.

A brutal video clip depicting Donald Trump shooting and stabbing media characters and political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters, the New York Times reported Sunday. The Randy Report, Twitter / YouTube, The Geekz Team

The organiser of last week’s “American Priority” event – which was held at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Miami – said the clip was part of a “meme exhibit”. Speakers at the conference included the president’s son Donald Trump Jr and former White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“American Priority rejects all political violence and aims to promote a healthy dialogue about the preservation of free speech,” Alex Phillips told The New York Times.

A brutal video clip depicting Donald Trump shooting and stabbing media figures and political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

A brutal video clip depicting Donald Trump shooting and stabbing media figures and political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

A brutal video clip depicting Donald Trump shooting and stabbing media figures and political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters, the New York Times reported on Sunday. The Randy Report, Twitter / YouTube, The Geekz Team

‘Enemies of the people’

The White House Correspondents Association said in a statement that it was “horrified” by the video and that “all Americans should condemn this depiction of violence directed towards journalists and [Trump’s] political opponents”.

CNN wrote on Twitter: “This is not the first time that supporters of the President have promoted violence against the media in a video they apparently find entertaining, but it is by far and away the worst.”

A brutal video clip depicting Donald Trump shooting and stabbing media characters and political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters, the New York Times reported Sunday.

A brutal video clip depicting Donald Trump shooting and stabbing media characters and political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters, the New York Times reported Sunday.

A brutal video clip depicting Donald Trump shooting and stabbing media characters and political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters, the New York Times reported Sunday. The Randy Report, Twitter / YouTube, The Geekz Team

Trump, the White House and his campaign must denounce the clip, the channel said, adding that “anything less equates to a tacit endorsement of violence”.

Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Trump’s 2020 election campaign, told the Times the “video was not produced by the campaign, and we do not condone violence”.

A brutal video clip depicting Donald Trump shooting and stabbing media characters and political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters, the New York Times reported Sunday.

A brutal video clip depicting Donald Trump shooting and stabbing media characters and political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters, the New York Times reported Sunday.

A brutal video clip depicting Donald Trump shooting and stabbing media characters and political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters, the New York Times reported Sunday. The Randy Report, Twitter / YouTube, The Geekz Team

Media organisations have come under regular verbal attack from Trump and his supporters.

At rallies, the US president repeatedly encourages the crowd to boo and heckle journalists covering the event, calling them “fake news” and “enemies of the people”.

Trump has previously tweeted a roughly edited video clip of him attacking a wrestler whose head had been superimposed with a CNN logo.

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Everything you Need to know About Maxime Bernier

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Maxime Bernier PC MP (born January 18, 1963) is a Canadian businessman, lawyer and politician serving as the Member of Parliament (MP) for the riding of Beauce since 2006. He is the founder and current leader of the People’s Party of Canada (PPC).

Prior to entering politics, Bernier held positions in the fields of law, finance and banking. First elected to the Canadian House of Commons as a Conservative, Bernier served as Minister of IndustryMinister of Foreign AffairsMinister of State for Small Business and Tourism, which later became the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism and Agriculture in the cabinet of then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Following the Conservatives’ defeat in the 2015 election, he served as opposition critic for Innovation, Science and Economic Development in the shadow cabinets of Rona Ambrose and Andrew Scheer, until June 12, 2018.

Federal party leaders

Bernier ran for the Conservative Party leadership in the 2017 leadership election, and came in a close second with over 49% of the vote in the 13th round, after leading the eventual winner, Andrew Scheer, in the first 12 rounds. Fifteen months later, in August 2018, Bernier resigned from the Conservative Party to create his own party, citing disagreements with Scheer’s leadership.[1] His new party was named the People’s Party of Canada in September 2018.

He has been a separatist, a Conservative cabinet minister, even ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party. So how did Maxime Bernier wind up leading a brand new party in this election campaign?

And when did some of his more controversial positions take hold? 

In the sixth and final Canadian leadership profile, Jayme Poisson speaks to the CBC’s Jonathan Montpetit about Maxime Bernier, the controversial head of the People’s Party of Canada. 28:05

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Everything you Need to Know About Yves-François Blanchet

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Yves-François Blanchet (born April 16, 1965) is a Canadian politician serving as Leader of the Bloc Québécois since 2019.

He is a graduate from the Université de Montréal where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in history and anthropology in 1987. He later worked as a teacher and was a founder of an artist, disc and concert management firm, YFB Inc. while being the president of the ADISQ from 2003 to 2006. He was named the local business personality of the year by the Drummondville Chamber of Commerce, while he and associated artists received 10 Félix Awards.

Yves-Francois Blanchet in October 2009.jpg

Blanchet was elected to represent the riding of Drummond in the National Assembly of Quebec in the 2008 provincial election. In the 2012 election, he was reelected, this time in Johnson electoral district. He was defeated by CAQ candidate André Lamontagne in the 2014 Quebec election. A member of the Parti Québécois (PQ), Blanchet was Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks from 2012 until 2014.[2] He was also a member of the Youth National Committee of the Parti Québécois in 1988 as well as a regional director of the PQ.

On November 26, 2018, Blanchet announced his candidacy for the leadership of the Bloc Québécois (BQ). As no other candidate had entered the race by the time nominations closed on January 15, 2019, Blanchet was officially acclaimed leader on January 17, 2019.

He’s definitely not as familiar outside of Quebec as he is in his home province. But the Bloc Québécois has been the official opposition in the past and so it’s important to know what Yves-François Blanchet stands for and what he would fight for on behalf of Quebec.

If nothing else, listen to learn Blanchet’s nickname — and how he earned it. 

The Bloc Québécois was once a powerful federal political party, forming the official opposition in 1993 and holding around fifty seats in the House in the mid to late 2000’s. But the last two elections have nearly wiped the Bloc from existence, and the party has had a revolving door of leaders. This year, Yves-François Blanchet took over the reins. Today on Front Burner, as part of our series on the federal party leaders, we take a look at who Blanchet is and what he stands for with Martin Patriquin, a freelance political journalist based in Montreal. 21:28

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